NLI partners with the National Wildlife Federation on national guidelines for play and learning
By ELI VALSING, Natural Learning Initiative
Natural Learning Initiative (NLI): Natural Play and Learning Area Guidelines Project
The Natural Learning Initiative, in partnership with The National Wildlife Federation, began work towards developing national guidelines for play and learning areas in 2009. Children are faced with many options for staying indoors and few options for getting outside, connecting with nature, and acquiring the life skills only available through interacting with nature. The U.S. Forest Service, with matching efforts from sites developing nature play areas will provide funding for the guidelines over the next two years.
This project will create policy and practice guidelines for natural play areas in childhood and family institutions: childcare centers, municipal parks, public schools, and federal lands. Research based design concepts that bring children and families together with their natural environments, in a variety of settings. The project will promote guideline adoption by stakeholder professional associations, governments, and regulatory bodies.
With the NWF/NLI partnership taking the lead and administering the project fourteen leading national organizations were called to serve on the project steering committee, by aiding in the development and promotion of the guidelines and providing review going forward. Organizations include the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Centers for Disease Control, the Chicago Park District, the Children & Nature Network, the City Park Alliance, Head Start Body Start National Center for Physical Development and Outdoor Play, the Houston Parks and Recreation Department, Keep America Beautiful, the National Arbor Day Foundation/Dimensions Educational Research Foundation, the National Association of State Park Directors, the National Recreation and Parks Association, the North American Association for Environmental Education, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Forest Service.
In connection with the national guidelines, in June of 2011, NWF and NLI partnered with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to pilot the use of a designed natural play and learning area within a refuge in the Nature Play Corps project.
In addition, backyard natural play areas are being developed with sponsorship by Scotts Miracle-Gro. A demonstration backyard natural play area is under construction at the Charlotte Nature Museum in Charlotte, NC and another demonstration site is slated for the Washington DC area in the spring of 2012. Homeowner guidelines will also be released in 2012 as part of this project.